Friday, April 28, 2017

Gods of the Fall - Another Approach to Cyphers

Cyphers in Gods of the Fall are relatively unchanged from those we see in Numenera, The Strange, and other Cypher System games. The explanation of where they originate from is different but the core concept is the same: single use devices of fantastic power. In Gods of the Fall cyphers are explained as crystallized motes of divine energy, physical things that can be picked up, carried around, sold, traded, lost or stolen, and eventually used up, their physical form evaporating back into the aether as the divine energy is spent.

But what if we took a different tack?

The gods are dead and those that may yet become gods are only beginning their journey. Heaven (Elanehtar) is gone. Divine energy is at its least constrained. In prior times before the Fall there were dozens, possibly even hundreds, of gods, each brimming with divine energy. Elanehtar was whole and was itself a realm entirely divine. So in such a case why would free divine energy retain a static form?

Why would cyphers stay in the same form and function until they were used? Heck, why would divine energy even solidify into any form at all? Why wouldn't all this energy just return to some kind of formless and pervasive state waiting for the right person, place, or thing to render it into the world?

To put it plainly: Why even have cyphers be things, and why have those things be statically the same until used? It's all divine energy, and gods channel divine energy.

Here's my proposal. The characters are gods, and cyphers are part of their divine abilities. They are not physical things (though the can be MADE physical). Each session you roll up new cyphers for each character (unless continuing directly from a prior session). These cyphers are power the character can use by channeling divine energy. If they want they can make one manifest and pass it off as a minor miracle, but otherwise these cyphers are internal to the character and their power. Whenever the character rests they replenish their cyphers, and can also re-roll any they still have if they want.

Before you freak out about how this undermines some of your NPCs there's no reason that an evil god-to-be couldn't manifest and bestow cyphers to their followers or minions. It might even be possible for powerful soul sorcerers or bibliomancers to capture a young god and "milk" them daily for the cyphers that their divinity produces. Likewise slaying divinely empowered foes would offer people (NPC and PC) to capture the divine essence in cypher form for a short time after death.

This spin on cyphers could either justify making the cypher limits a hard cap, or could make the soft cap threat of ravers even more damning. After all, if you go over your cypher limit you probably did so by making your cyphers manifest and not giving them away, or by taking the divine power of others (in manifest form) and hoarding it.

Of course, if you take this approach it also means that the idea of cyphers as shard of Elanehtar is probably gone, and with it the idea of restoring that lost heaven once enough cyphers have been used up. It also makes divinely charged remnants of the prior gods and prior worlds more valuable because these are that much rarer and exceptional. The divine weapon of a dead god would potentially be a more precious artifact than an enchanted blade created in Corso. Not by virtue of ability (though very possibly) but because it represents a rare stable nexus of divinity.

Then again, the way cyphers are written works pretty well too.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Nuts & Bolts #116 - Review: Kamandi Challenge #3

Kamandi Challenge #4 is out today, so here are my thoughts on issue #3 from last month. Some spoilers henceforth.


Published By: DC Comics • 31 pages • $3.99 • full color

What's In It?

OK, listen, if you're with me this far I'd like to think you're probably reading the Kamandi Challenge monthly as it comes out. If not you should probably just wait until December when I post my review of this 12 issue series as a whole. Regardless, spoilers ahead folks as I'm going to start talking about the plot a lot more....

.... seriously, we're going full spoiler here ....

... last warning!

Where were we? ...oh, right, falling!

At the end of the prior issue Kamandi found himself checking the post-apocalyptic gravity by falling/jumping off a cliff to avoid some bad guys. I say falling/jumping, because I'm genuinely not sure which is the case.

We pick up this issue with a bunch more anthropomorphic animals observing Kamandi's science experiment. A pair of rather large man-bats (not batmen to be seen here, move along) fly out to rescue Kamandi. We transition to Kamandi behind held inside a pre-apocalypse boat where a plant person joins him. Kamandi meets the captain, a turtle who seems to have knowledge of Kamandi and claims to be part of the "God Watchers".

These guys seem suspicious, which only gets worse when it turns out that the plant people are treated as a sentient salad come dinner time. Ouch. An attack from the non-friendly man-bat tribe sends our hero to the island of the Jaguar Sun Cult, because that's the kind of pacing these books have. In short order Kamandi and his planty girl Friday are captured and offered up as dinner for a Kong sized kitty....

OK, so did I enjoy this issue? Yes ... but, I kind of wish there was a little more room given to actually explore the parts of the world we visit with some more detail. The pacing of the story is so fast that at times things are more teasing than I would like. Still, one cannot fault the creative team(s) for trying to hit as much of the world as possible.

The world building here is an exercise in masterful execution of minimalism. We get so very little of the savage bat tribes, and yet what we gain is enough to give us a strong impression of them; more than enough that I could use them in a game I feel.

The God Watchers are a little less developed, they seem to be intentionally mysterious. They have technology to create sapient plants, they have intelligent insects (bees and manti) working for them, and they seem to have knowledge of Kamandi, including a picture of him with his parents. I'm doubtful we'll get more, but I kinda wish we would.

The jaguar folk are savage and either keepers or, or kept by, the aforementioned Kong-sized jaguar. Since this is a cliffhanger situation we could gain more from the next issue, but given the resolution of the past two I wonder if we'll instead be whisked away to a new part of the world.

The pacing of this issue is a little rough. The first two issues felt like a contiguous story, but this one moved so quickly between scenes and settings that it felt a bit disjointed. The resolution of the cliffhanger from last issue was better though, and felt a little less dodgy than gorillas jumping out of an old nuke, so props to the writer (Jimmy Palmiotti) on that one. This issue's art (by Amanda Conner) was a step down in my opinion, with a simpler feel and look. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't my preference either.

Rating: 70% - A look that didn't appeal and an overly ambitious pacing left me wanting

Monday, April 24, 2017